World champion snatches lead from Brit Henderson in sprint finish
Anna Henderson said she wished the Finish Line was 200m closer after she was caught in the final moments of the first stage of the 2022 RideLondon Classique.
British national time trial champion Henderson (Team Jumbo-Visma) launched an ambitious lone attack with more than 45km of the 130km stage in Essex remaining.
Cheered on by her home crowd, Henderson had jumped out to a lead of almost two minutes at one point and held off her rivals until the final sprint, twice taking maximum points in the Ford Queen of the Mountains classification.
It was Lorena Wiebes (Team DSM) who profited from Henderson’s fatigue, storming to a win through the streets of Maldon, finishing ahead of world champion Elisa Balsamo (Trek-Segafredo) and Emma Norsgaard Bjerg (Team Movistar) in 3:30:12.
Henderson, who finished in 27th place, said a bruising final 5km, in which she faced strong winds on exposed roads, took their toll.
“I wish the Finish Line was 200m closer,” said the 23-year-old. “We wanted to be aggressive and be in the break as we know there are fast sprinters here, so it made sense to attack after they’d been looking at each other after the first sprint.
“But being alone wasn’t ideal, so I didn’t commit but I had to after the gap went out.
The final 5km was on a wide road and it was hard fighting the wind and the peloton at this point.
“I was going all-out for the stage win initially, but the Ford Queen of the Mountains Jersey is a nice bonus. I’m going to be tired tomorrow but am ready for the days ahead.”It had looked as though Henderson had timed her attack perfectly following the first intermediate sprint. A low-key start to the race, with several small crashes, burst into life through the streets of Maldon.
Breaks from Le Col - Wahoo were pulled back by the peloton as the riders approached, and it was again Wiebes who crossed the line first, ahead of Lotte Kopecky (Team SD Worx) and Balsamo.
Henderson and Charlotte Kool (Team DSM) swept up the first and second number of intermediate sprint points ahead of Balsamo before the final circuit, with the overall push proving too much for Henderson.
Wiebes raced past her inside the final kilometre to claim victory, the 41st win of her career. And while delighted to secure the win, she admits tomorrow’s stage through Epping poses a very different challenge.
“I wasn’t that confident ahead of the final as Anna [Henderson] had a big time gap, but we were able to prepare for the sprint and carry it out as I wanted, which was great. The final kilometre was chaotic, and the team lost each other a bit but it worked out well in the end.
“Tomorrow it is a case of surviving, and it will be really hard. The climb is just before the finish so I will suffer if I want to defend the Leader’s Jersey. I hope my legs feel good tomorrow as this was hard.”
Balsamo, who finished in the top three of all three of the day’s sprints, will start day two in the Sprint Jersey, with Alice Barnes (Canyon//SRAM) donning the colours of the Best British Rider, following her 11th-placed finish, 17 seconds down.
The race continues in Epping tomorrow, before the final day through the streets of London.